This article was reprinted on Honey Colony.
Will Avian Flu Lead to the End of Cheap Eggs?
I stopped looking at the price of eggs at the grocery store after I brought home my first laying hens. Frankly, I found it rather depressing to see eggs for sale at less than a dollar a dozen. My homegrown, organic eggs cost around $5 per dozen to raise…and cheap eggs remind me of the problems with our government subsidizing big agriculture, the inhumane conditions of industrial egg ‘farms,’ and the destruction of our crop land with increased use of pesticides and fertilizers. Don’t get me on my soap box!
When millions of laying hens had to be destroyed due to avian flu this spring, I wondered how long it would be before the price of eggs and poultry increased. I checked the price of eggs at the grocery store and saw they were holding steady at 93 cents per dozen. That was several weeks ago. Today I read this article from ABC News on May 19th…Egg Prices Jump as Impact of Bird Flu Begins Pinching Supply.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
Factory farms keep huge numbers of chickens confined in close proximity, causing disease to spread quickly. Much of the nation’s egg supply comes from Iowa, a state hit hard by the avian flu epidemic. Turkey flocks in Minnesota have also suffered huge losses. Having so much of our food production concentrated in one part of the country has made the industry susceptible to disease, drought, and natural disaster. We’re seeing the effects now with the beginning of price increases on eggs and turkey. So far, the broiler industry has not been affected, but that could change this fall when migratory birds head back to their winter homes in the south. If that happens, we could see increases in broiler prices. Another poultry industry that could be at risk would be hatcheries that raise day old poultry for mail order or the factory farms.
To make matters worse the disposal of all the euthanized birds has become problematic. The process of incinerating the carcasses is time consuming so many of them may head to landfills. Only one landfill in Iowa was accepting dead birds, but there were some issues with price inflation. You can read more about that in this article. One of my concerns about this disposal option is the infection of wild birds that could feed on carcasses. We could be looking at an ongoing problem if the infected carcasses are not buried quickly to avoid further infection of the wild bird population.
Raise Your Own or Support Local Farmers
Raising your own chickens for eggs and meat is one way to protect yourself from interruptions in your food supply. And you can’t get much more local than your own backyard! You do need to watch for signs of infection in your flock, and take precautions against infection from migratory bird populations. I also can’t promise you cheaper eggs, but you’ll know what your hens eat and how they are raised. With the increase in cost of supermarket eggs, yours might be more comparable until the layer operations recover. You might even have new egg customers. (Check into your local regulations regarding home raised egg sales.)
Many people can’t keep their own hens, however. The next best thing is purchasing eggs from a small local farmer. The price is likely to be higher because small farmers don’t receive subsidies from the federal government. You’ll pay the real price that it costs to raise eggs. But you’ll know where your food comes from and you’ll be supporting small farmers who should be the backbone of our food supply system.
Supporting our local farmers protects our population from food shortages in the long run. And that is good for our country and good for our people. So buy locally produced food when you can and let the politicians know that you do NOT support subsidies for big agriculture!